BOSTON -- Should Tampa Bay not advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history, members of the Lightning could spend this summer thinking about what could have been in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Lightning dominated the Boston Bruins in the first 20 minutes Monday night at TD Garden. They thwarted three Boston power plays, including a 4-on-3 for 97 seconds. Guy Boucher's club swarmed the Bruins and goaltender Tim Thomas in the third period.
Yet here are the Lightning, trailing 3-2 in this series after a 3-1 defeat in Game 5.
"That's the way you feel you know," Simon Gagne said when asked if this was a lost opportunity. "You feel that that game was up in the air for both teams."
Added Steven Stamkos: "Yeah, it is tough. You don't win when you deserve to all the time and that's the playoffs. The ones you deserve to win you should win and you have to win to be successful in the playoffs. We've been on both ends of the spectrum and we can't look at it like that right now. We've got to learn from that and regroup."
Tampa Bay outshot Boston 14-4 in the opening period but only led 1-0 at the first intermission. The Lightning also had an 11-8 advantage in the third period, including several prime scoring opportunities, but Thomas was able to fend them off and protect a one-goal lead.
Thomas hadn't really "stolen" a game in this series before Monday night, but he left Lightning shooters befuddled with some spectacular saves.
"I think in the first, one time we had them hemmed in there for two minutes on the power play -- that would have been nice to get one there," Ryan Malone said. "But you have to tip your hat to those guys for not letting the puck cross the line. It's out of our control now. We've got to regroup and focus about the next one. There's nothing we can do about it."
In the end it was the power play that failed the Lightning more than anything. They went 0-for-4 on the man advantage -- all in the first 24 minutes of the contest. It was the second time this series (Game 2 being the other) where a close, tight contest could have been swayed by a goal from Tampa Bay's power play and it didn't happen.
The Lightning had the top power-play percentage in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs through the first two rounds, but they are only 2 of 18 in this series against the Bruins. An extra-man goal (or two) in Game 2 or Game 5 and it might be Tampa Bay looking to close out the series Wednesday night.
"We're definitely going to look at the tapes. That's something we take a lot of pride of," Gagne said. "We had a lot of success on that since the start of the playoffs. We know that special teams could be the difference especially in that series and for us now we had a couple of chance to go out there and try to tie the game and we definitely not able to create a lot. So it's something we’re definitely going to look at tapes and try to play better next game."
Added Boucher: "I think what happened on our power play -- [we] got a little too cute, and if you look at the replays, you know, a few times it was just an inch away. And so if you score that second goal, obviously you feel a little different, and I think it's more the [two] second-period power plays that might have gotten to us."